Who doesn’t get tired of the same ole boring lunch every day. I sure do! I’m not necessarily a picky eater, but I do insist on fresh, preferably local ingredients in a form as close to nature as possible. So with this in mind, I thought I’d highlight a few of my favorite places to grab a healthy and delicious lunch around town.

Funky Awesome Restaurants
This lovely little gem brings a French cafe-meets-maison close air to Mountain Brook’s English Village. It’s the perfect ladies lunch spot (if it’s true that real men don’t eat quiche). The menu features fresh soups and European tartes made daily from fresh produce and top quality ingredients, delectable dips and spreads, Mediterranean special entrees and gourmet sandwiches on rustic hearth baked breads. The artisan bread made fresh at their Continenetal Bakery next door is truly amazing!
Iron tables, funky art and fresh food!

Iron tables, funky art and fresh food!

What to expect:
Attentive service, funky atmosphere, but a tad bit cramped as space is relatively small and tables are very close together, plus it is usually packed. Expect to pay around $15.
What I order:
Soup and salad, salad sampler or quiche of the day. My favorite salads are the Goat Cheese, Pear and Roasted Walnuts salad, with organic lettuces and a champagne vinaigrette and the Chèvre Chaud (please don’t ask me to translate) made with marinated Bucherondin goat cheese, served warm with organic lettuces and Provençal vinaigrette.
Why I love it:
The food is always top notch and the red and yellow walls, swag lamps, iron tables and crushed velvet settee in the bathroom all make you want to say, “Oui, oui, mademoiselle!”
Cool fact/interesting tip: 
They have a nice three-course kid’s meal (think 1. Ants on a log, apple & peanut butter or grapes & cheese 2. ham, turkey or pb &j on homemade white bread and 3. ice cream or cookie) that feels like a special occasion for the younger ones. They also have some of the best pizza in town, but it is only served at night.

 

Bottletree

Yes, Bottletree. No, it’s not just a bar with an incredible music venue and no, they do not serve “bar” food. Bottletree’s Cafe happens to be the best kept secret in town with an amazingly diverse menu that includes all kinds of tasty vegetarian dishes, as well as more traditional fare. Salads, wraps, burgers, burritos, quesadillas and more can be customized with tofu, chicken, beans, soy cheese or soy sour cream, or you can stick with beef burgers, dogs and the like. The vibe here is garage-rock-meets-Elvis-and-Tina Turner, somewhere along the lines of a basement party with mood lighting, vintage board games and vinyl loveseats. You kind of have to experience it to get it…

The tofu peanut butter pie is so good!

The tofu peanut butter pie is so good!

The Garden Grill.

The Garden Grill

What to expect:
When you arrive, you’ll most likely say to yourself, “This can’t be the place” but please fight the urge to drive on! I promise you’ll thank me for it. Place your order at the bar and they will bring it to your table when it’s ready. The staff is super friendly and always willing to weigh in if you’re not sure what to order. Expect to pay under $10.

What I order:
The Garden Grill (quinoa & veggies with a sweet heat sauce) is my go to, but I also love the black bean burger and sweet potato fries. The salad, made from locally grown mixed greens, tomatoes, red onion and bell peppers, is delightful, too, AND I always order the tofu peanut butter pie!!

Why I love it:
Let me count the ways! There is no one serving up this type and quality of healthy fare at such reasonable cost. The food and the atmosphere seem to not add up, but the juxtaposition just adds to the allure.

Cool fact/interesting tip:
Bottletree recently won Best of Birmingham for Best Live Music Venue and Best Vegetarian Food – now I say that’s a winning combination! Their weekend brunch has also received accolades!

www.thebottletree.com

 

White Collar Awesome Restaurants
Brick and Tin, located on 20th Street North, occupies the space formerly owned by Dress for Success. This is not your typical soup and sandwich place. The ingredients are super fresh and locally sourced and the menu offers loads of unique combinations of healthy fare.
Not your run of the mill sandwich spot!

Not your run of the mill sandwich spot!

What to expect:
In the midst of downtown, you get a varied crowd of mostly business people. You’ll order at the counter and they’ll bring it to your table. Service is quick and friendly. Expect to pay under $10.
What I order:
The homemade soup is always spot on and the locally-sourced salad comes with a tasty vinaigrette. But if you’re in the mood for something a little more hearty, they have a slew of sandwich options and special side items.
Why I love it :
The brick walls and pressed tin ceiling tiles give the place a warm, rustic feel and the locally-sourced seasonal menu offers plenty of unique options, so it’s not your typical soup and sandwich place.

Cool fact/interesting tip:
The owners discovered the original pressed tin ceiling hidden behind some broken lay-in ceiling tiles and peeled back the layers of crumbling, purple painted plaster to find warm brick walls, and that is how the restaurant got its name.

www.brickandtin.com

 

Located in Homewood and at the Summit, and opening this spring in Crestline Village, Urban Cookhouse uses the freshest ingredients available with an emphasis on supporting the local farmer.
The BALT, Pepper Patch with lime marinated steak and the veggie quesadilla - all pack a serious eatin' punch!

The BALT, Pepper Patch with lime marinated steak and the veggie quesadilla – all pack a serious eatin’ punch!

What to expect:
This place is always bustling at both locations so they must be doing something right! Order at the counter and they will bring it to your table. Expect to pay around $10 to $15.
What I order:
The BALT rocks! Thick cut bacon, avocado, lettuce and tomato, all stacked neatly inside tasty sourdough bread. I also love the veggie quesadilla that comes super-stuffed with all kinds of vegetable good-for-you-ness, with grilled veggies, black beans, corn, pepper jack and provolone cheese. Add shrimp, chicken or steak if you like. If I’m in the mood for a salad, the Pepper Patch fits the bill with black beans, corn, red onion, tomatoes, pepper jack cheese and a house-made roasted jalapeno vinaigrette. They recommend adding the lime marinated steak. For lighter fare, the Berry Good salad is a nice combo of seasonal berries, tomatoes, spiced pecans, feta and a citrus vinaigrette, which is also good topped with a scoop of their chicken salad.

Why I love it:
The menu offers so much diversity, so whatever I’m craving, they have something that fits the bill!

Cool fact/interesting tip:

They not only buy local produce for use in their kitchen, but they also sponsor the Homewood Farmers Market and the Summit Farmers Market.

http://urbancookhouse.com

 

Farmstead Awesome Restaurants
I’m thrilled to have the Pantry in my neighborhood now! Their new space in Crestline Village is now open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Their concept is simple – plant it, grow it, cook it, serve it. Most of what is served here is produced on the owner’s farm, Stone Hollow Farmstead.
Cerviche served over greens with fresh chips or pick and choose from loads of salad options.

Ceviche served over greens with fresh chips, or pick and choose from loads of salad options.

What to Expect:
With no designated parking, you may have to circle the block a time or two. The space is very charming inside, with mostly two top seating in various rooms. You’ll be greeted with a welcoming smile, and once seated someone will take your order. Expect to pay about $15 unless you decide to gulp copious amounts of their oh-so-good and good-for-you green juice!
What I order:
Everything I have tried at The Pantry has been extremely palatable, but I also happen to love raw foods so it’s no surprise that the Thai lettuce wraps, made with cashew nuts and raw veggies, are one of my faves. Of course, the goat cheese is indescribably delicious, and the made fresh daily soups are divine!
Why I love it:
The Pantry is all about clean organic eating! Everything here is real food. AND how cool is it that Birmingham is home to a raw juice bar!!
Cool fact/interesting tip:
The Pantry plans to expand with an outdoor eating area and backyard garden.
Fast & Friendly Awesome Restaurants
This is not your typical meat and 3. Tim Hontzas (whose grandfather’s name was Johnny) dishes up fresh Southern fare with a dash of Greek flair.
Try the hoppin john soup with house made cornbread croutons, fried green tomatoes or the greek salad.

Try the Hoppin John soup with house made cornbread croutons, fried green tomatoes or the Greek salad.

What to expect:
This fast, casual spot serves fresh meats and veggies cooked to perfection. The staff is very friendly. Order at the counter and they will bring it to you. It is a popular lunch spot so get their early if you have a hankering for the chicken pot pie or daily special. Expect to pay $10.
What I order:
They have the best fried green tomatoes! I also love their collard greens and squash casserole. And the large chunks of feta on the Greek salad are the bomb!
Why I love it:
This is such a family friendly place and I adore the owners!! And they have free WiFi. <smile>
Cool fact/interesting tip:

Owner and chef Tim Hontzas is married to our very own FACES photographer, Beth Hontzas!

www.facebook.com/pages/Johnnys-Restaurant

 

This casual Italian cafe (formerly Za Za Trattoria) opened its doors in spring 2009. A dream ten years in the making for longtime friends Geoff Lockert and Brian Somershield, Trattoria Centrale provides comforting meals, crafted from a combination of local ingredients and traditional offerings, creating a unique downtown Birmingham dining experience.
Best known for the pizza, the soup and salad here are top notch!

Best known for the pizza, the soup and salad here are top notch!

What to expect:
Very friendly, jocular staff (especially that guy with the beard!) and super fast service. You’ll order at the counter then seat yourself. Space is very tight with little maneuvering room between tables. Brunch on Sundays at Trattoria is top notch, but expect to wait in line! Expect to pay around $10.
What I order:
Two slices of pizza and salad (great mesclun greens with a slightly salty vinaigrette) or soup, salad and rosemary bread.
Why I love it:
The owners are full of personality and the pizza is beyond outstanding!
Cool fact/interesting tip:

Trattoria Centrale in the heart of downtown boasts a rooftop garden from which they harvest tomatoes, basil, and eggplant.

www.trattoriacentrale.com

I hope you enjoyed this little restaurant roundup of my favorite spots to hit for lunch around town! I’d love to hear what local spots are tops on your list in the comments below!